news BT has announced that its UK wholesale fibre network, Openreach, has passed the 25-million premises milestone.
The rollout of the Openreach fibre broadband network commenced in July 2009 – a time when the average UK broadband speed was just 4.1Mbps.
“Since then, more than 70,000 premises have been passed on average every week in what is one of the fastest deployments of fibre broadband in the world,” said BT in a statement.
To date, Openreach engineers have upgraded more than 4,700 telephone exchanges and installed tens of thousands of street cabinets across the UK, having spent more than 10 million man hours rolling out fibre and driving 72 million miles. The model is similar to the Coalition’s Fibre to the Node approach to the NBN. Labor also initially supported a FTTN vision for the NBN from 2007, but abandoned it in 2009 for a Fibre to the Premises model.
The “vast majority” of the rollout has been funded by BT on a “purely commercial” basis, the firm said.
However, around four million of the 25 million premises have been reached as a result of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. This sees BT and the public sector both contributing funds to reach areas that the private sector would not have reached otherwise.
The overall BDUK programme is “on track and under budget”, said BT, and 95% of UK premises are expected to have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017.
The firm cited independent EU data revealing the UK to be significantly ahead of most European countries when it comes to the availability and take up of superfast broadband.
Availability is approximately double that of France, whilst take up is 50% higher than in Germany, twice that of Spain and 12 times that of Italy.
Further, the average broadband speed in the UK has climbed from around 23Mbps in 2014 to almost 29Mbps in 2015, an increase of 27%. That figure is likely to increase as more customers choose to upgrade from copper to fibre broadband, BT said.
“Our approach has delivered affordable superfast services to the vast majority of the country in the fastest possible time,” said Clive Selley, Openreach CEO. “We want to build upon that by making ultrafast broadband available to most of the UK.”
If the plan is realised, Openreach would deliver ultrafast speeds to 10 million premises by 2020, and to “the majority of the UK” within 10 years.
That ambitious aim would be achieved by using a mix of G.fast technology and fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), Selley explained, adding that the latter would be focused mainly on “new developments and small businesses in high streets and business parks”.
Additionally, the UK Government is currently consulting on a 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation to cover the remainder of the UK. BT said Openreach is ready to play a “supportive role” in that process, and that it is exploring a “range of potential solutions that could be deployed subject to a supportive regulatory environment”.